Skip to content

religion

The Copper Scroll Decoded * Robert Feather (isbn 0722538022)

In 1947 a local shepherd was looking for two of his goats near the Dead Sea. In a cave he stumbled upon some scrolls with text. In the two following years, about 80.000 scrolls, either complete or partially, were found in about 10 caves. These scrolls became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls which are not the same as the so called Nag Hammadi scrolls. The Nag Hammadi texts mostly deal with the periode just before the birth of Christ, the Dead Sea scrolls more about the times of the Old Testament and before.
One scroll is written on copper, which is strange, because the Qumran-Essenes who the texts are suscribed to had an aversion against wordly goods. So when Robert Feather heard about the copper scroll, he was fascinated. He has a background of metallurgy and is a raised Jew. Feather started to try to find out how the Essenes got their copper and the technique to work with it. During his book he not only trails the Essenes back to ancient Egypt, but also other notorious persons from the Bible, like Abraham, Josef and Moses. While giving a new translation of the strange scroll that is written in an odd kind of ancient Hebrew with here and there Greek letters, Feather often looses track of his original goal. However I found that a bit irritating in the beginning, his stays off the path are actually much more interesting than the original subject. Feather quite convincingly proves that Judaism (and therefor also Christianity and Islam) with it’s monotheism actually comes from the heretic pharao Achnaton (Amenhotep IV) who reigned from 1349-1332 BC (halfway the 8th dynasty). Achnaton of course was the pharao that got rid off the many Egyptian gods in favour of the only highest divinity Aton. For a while that is, because after Achnaton’s short reign, his works were destroyed and the Jews had to flee away (the Exodus from the Bible). Some with Moses into the desert, others to other places. Not only Jews fled with Moses, also priests of Aton with treasures from the temple.
However Feather locates all the places where treasures are hidden according to the copper scroll, his new found history of Judaism and monotheism are more interesting to me and definately worth to read by anyone who is interested in this kind of history.

Het Derde Testament * Loed Loosen (isbn 9061737982 * 2005)

You see my literature comes from a great variety of sources. The Third Testament was published by the Katholieke Bijbel Stichting (Catholic Bible Society) who also published the new Dutch translation of the Bible. This little booklet (103 p.) is about the Bible in our daily life. Loosens chose six stories from each testament, the Old Testament he calls the First Testament, because is it is not old and out of date. The New Testement consequentally becomes the second testament. Loosen is (of course) from the Catholic corner but he wrote a very nice uncommon booklet. The six fragments are elucidated and Loosen has some rather ‘unCatholic’ ideas. He gives the Jewish origins of Christianity a high value, he says it is alright to ‘loose your faith’ in hard times and this faith should not be ‘forced back’ upon you, the Ten Words (commentments) are put in a new perspective (it is not that you have to follow them because otherwise you get punished, but you follow them because you feel that you are asked to. This sure gives much more room for a more personal view on faith.), Mary Magdalene gets a whole new place and the cross, Jesus’ suffering and the person of Jesus should not replace Christs message. A nice booklet about religion/belief in general and an uncommon view on Catholicism. A nice little booklet which might give the Catholic church back some credit.

Het Egyptisch Dodenboek * M.A. Geru (1974/1992 ankh hermes * isbn 9020248316)

This is the classic Dutch translation of the Egyptian Book Of The Dead. The first pressing was in 1974 and the forth (last) in 1992. I was pretty disappointed when I got it though.

The introduction is not very in depth. Almost nothing is said about the origin of the aphorism or the composition of the book. Only mentioned is that the title isn’t very good and that the original title “Reu Nu Pert Em Hru” (not even mentioned!!) would be “The Book Of Appearing By Day” (or “…Going Out By Day”). The translation is readable, but untranslatable terms are used that are not explained anywhere. In general there isn’t much explanation which is a massive deprivation of this book. I have read more translations of the Egyptian book of the Dead, but I haven’t been able to find out what Geru means with “NN” for example, nor is it explained what a “wab-” or “setem-priest” is. The transliteration of Egyptian words is old-fashioned. There is no index or glossary. It is not explained why several aphorisms are left untranslated (and unreproduced).

In short: it is really really really time for a new a proper translation in Dutch. With the Tibetan Book Of The Dead they knew very well how it can also be. Please Ankh-Hermes, make a new version with the Tibetan Book as example!

Egyptian Cosmology * Mustafa Gadalla (isbn 0965250911)

Here we have a small but extremely interesting book. Mustafa Gadalla is an Egyptian who moved to the US but became/remained an Egyptologist. He says that several subjects about this ancient culture are taken completely incorrect my most western Egyptologists and wants to put a few things straight. Further he wanted to explain the most important aspects of the ancient Egyptian culture short and clear. And he suceeded in both aims!
It is a fairly small and thin book and I read in in only three nights. The book is divided in 5 parts and 20 short chapters, all explaining an aspect of the subject. The chapters are indeed very clear and because they are only a few pages, this book is an excellent reference book.
A few things that Gadalla want to straighten out are that the Egyptian ‘gods’ are not actually gods, but aspects of the Absolute and can therefor not be regarded as antrophomorphic deities. For this reason Gadalla doesn’t refer to them as ‘gods’, but with the original Egyptian names “neter” (male, singular), “netert” (female, singular) and “neferu” (plural).
Another point is that the names of the neferu that we all know are the names that Greek ancient historians gave the neferu and not the original names. Gadalla uses the Egyptian names, which often made me having to consult the explaining vocabulary at the end. Horus is called Heru, Osiris Asat, Isis Aset, Nefthys Nebt-Het, etc. This takes a while to get used to, but I understand the purpose.
In general I think I can say that all subject that matter are dealt with, everything is easy to read and understand, there is a proper index and the earlier mentioned explaining vocabulary, a respectable structure which in all makes this book a must-have for anyone interested in the Egyptian culture and cosmology.
Do not expect nice pictures though. There are only simple black-and-white line-drawings to show a few things. For pictures, photos, etc. you better buy one of these cheap many-pictures-little-text books and use this one for the real information.

The Egyptian Book Of The Dead (the papyrus of Ani) * Ernest Alfred Thompson Wallis Budge (1895 * 1975 dover books * isbn 048621866x)

I ran into this book second hand. I already have a Dutch translation of the Egyptian Book Of The Dead, but this Budge version looked a lot like the Gods Of The Egyptians that I have of the man. Indeed, also in this book of Budge lengthy introductions (articles about “The versions of the Book Of The Dead”, “The legend of Osiris”, “The doctrine of eternal life”, “Egyptian ideas of god”, “The abode of the Blessed”, “The gods fo the Book Of The Dead”, “Geographical and mythological places”, “Funeral ceremonies” and “The papyrus of Ani”, note that Budge lived from 1857-1934 and since then a lot has happened and Budge has become overtaken in some of his ideas), the plates in hieroglyphs, transliterations and translations. Budge placed the hieroglyphs next to eachother from left to right, the next line has a transliteration (the hieroglyphs written in our letters) and under that a translation. A result of this -of course- is that the translations don’t read too well, because the order of the words in the sentences follows the hieroglyphs. Still it is very nice to be able to compare the translated words with the transliterations and the hieroglyphs. Also a more readable version of the translation can be found in the last part of the book. What I find less usefull is that Budge put the text in the order of the plates of the papyrus of Ani and this is not the order of the chapters which has been decided upon. Also in the readable translation, the Ani-order is kept, which makes is hard to compare this book to another publications of the Book Of The Dead. A last point of comment is that Budge seems to have written for a scholarly audience. His text and notes not only have hieroglyphs, but also Greek, Coptic, Hebrew and Arabic texts without translations.
This isn’t a very easy-to-read book, but it is great to look at these pages with hieroglyphs and translations and (with some searching) this version can be used to find back the hieroglyphs with go with quotes from this famous text.

The Gatha’s * Hazrat Inayat Khan (isbn 8120807596)

Currentely not available in English it seems, but I got a Dutch translation of this book. I knew the sufi-master Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882-1927) and I expected a sufi approach to the Gathas of Zarathustra, but “Gatha” just means something like “teaching” so this was not the case. Khan came from India and shows knowledge of not only Islam (of course), but also Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity. The book shows a spiritual path by explaining everyday-life things. It is a practical book, but not in the sense of exersizes. I was surprised to see many similarities with the modern Theosophical teachings, the approach seems to be similar, the interweaving of Western and Eastern doctrines can be found here as well. The text is very readable and therefor a good introduction to sufism for the Western man. Two quotes to close off:

“Which faith is taught by a sufi?” “No faith, but he helps the student to look for and find his own faith.”
“sufism is not a faith but a viewpoint”

De Godsdienst Der Romeinen * J.L.M. de Lepper (1950)

This book comes in the series ‘de godsdiensten der mensheid’ (‘the religions of mankind’) of which I reviewed three others in the Asatru archive.
The book was the third in the series that I read and it speaks about old information and new (classical writers versus modern scientific (archeological) investigation), that religion for the Romans was something personal, but also a matter of the state, feasts around the year, the many gods, the way they were worshipped, priests and priestesses, mystery-cults, the high level of tolerance towards other religions and so on. Also very informative with many wonderfull photos and a good index.

The Handbook Of Yoruba Religious Concepts * Baba Ifa Karade (isbn 0877287899)

I got a Dutch translation of this book as a present. The cover is terrible and I feared the worst. It look like one of these cheap-bookstores-new-agie kind of this. Opening the book my prejudices slowly started to flow away and when I really started to read, I found out that this book is actually very, very nice. It is published by a descent Dutch publisher and the original version is published by noone less than Samuel Weiser, so so much for prejudices from my side.

“Yarouba” is said to be an ages old African religion, with a prophet (Orunmila), a holy scripture (the “Ifa”), an oracle system that reminds of the I-Tjing, spiritual practises and (even) exoteric and esoteric branches. This little book gives you the history, an overview of religious practises, information about the texts, practises, priests and priestesses, a bibliography and even a glocery of terms. Very nice and definately a subject new to me, but very recognisable on the larger scale of big religions and esoteric practises.

The Jewish Book Of Living And Dying * Lewis D. Solomon (isbn 0765761017)

In contradtion to the well-known Tibetan Book Of Living And Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche this is a very practical ‘book of the dead’ for Western people. Solomon is an American Jew that is not only very undogmatical, but also very untraditional. He thinks that nowadays Judaism strayed too far from the path. Also nowadays Judaism pushes Death to the background, just like we do in our Christian society. Still there is a wonderfull Jewish tradition around the accompaniment of dying people, dead people and their relatives. Solomon wrote a very good book with practical advice (even practices and meditations), great and detailed descriptions of the afterlife in the Jewish tradition and a nice view of the Jewish tradition in general as far as the subject is concerned. The most practical ‘book of the dead’ that I know and I can recommand this book to anyone interested in the subject, anyone wanting to help him/herself and others AND anyone interested in the original Jewish tradition.

Many Peoples Many Faiths * Robert S. Ellwood (isbn 0131830392)

Here we have a descent book for those who want a proper and clear overview of the greater worlds religions. This book is even used at schools.
It is divided in eleven chapters which each deal with a certain subject.
Chapter one deals with understanding religion in general:
Chapter two with prehistoric and tribal religions;
Chapter three with the spiritual paths of India;
Chapter four with Buddism;
Chapter five with east asian religions;
Chapter six with the three big monotheistic religions as introduction;
Chapter seven with Judaism;
Chapter eight with Christianity;
Chapter nine with Islam;
Chapter ten with new religious movements;
Chapter eleven with relgion in the lives of today and tomorrow.

Then there is also an appendix with tips on how to make a comperative study.

The book deals with a massive amount of religious movements and tells in short the story of the past, cultural influences, the present and possible future and the best part is that it always ends with a short summery with the following points:
-Basic world view (“how the universe is set up, especially in spiritual aspect – the map of the invisible world”);
-God or Ultimate Reality (“what the ultimate source and ground of all things is”);
-Destiny of the world (“where it all came from”);
-Origin of humans (“where we came from”);
-Destiny of humans (“where we are going”);
-Revelation or mediation between the Ultimate and the human (“how we know this and how we get to our ultimate reality”);
-What is expected of humans, worship, practices, behaviour (“what we ourselves must do”);
-Major social institutions (“how religion is set up to preserve and implement its teaching and practice: what kind of leadership it has; how it interacts with larger society”).

Especially this, makes the book extremely helpfull to fresh up your memory quickly or get to know something about a certain religion rapidly.

To give you an idea of the religions featured I will list the eastern Asian religious that are dealt with:
ancient China, Confucianism, Daoism, Chinese Buddism, traditional Chinese religion, Shinto, Japanese Buddism, Japanese Confucianism, Japanese new-age, Vietnamese religion.
And for example subjects in the India chapter: Hinduism, Ancient Aryans, the Upanishads, recent Hinduism, Advaita Vedanta, Tantrism, Jainism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism.

Great points about the book are:
-The “suggested reading” lists after every chapter;
-A large index to find something easily;
-The extraordinary beautiful photos of which are many to be found;
-Objective writing;
-Gigantic amount of information between the lines (many subjects are touched upon shortly beside the normally featured subjects);
-Good lay-out. When you have read the book or are busy in it, you will immediately recognize what part of a chapter you read, because the set-up is the same all throught the book.

A few minor points about the book.
-The format is very strange, almost squarely, which makes it hard to find a proper place on your bookshell.
-The writer doesn’t have a easily readable writing-style, it is not very appealing, long sentences, difficult words;
-The price. The paperback version (that I have) seems to be out of print and the hardcover costs $53,- at Amazon!

But all in all I find the book very helpfull and it is one of the best in this vein that I have seen so far. <15/10/00>