Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Reconstructing the Afterlife in a Vanished Religion

New York Times (Souren Melkian)

Thanks to Stan Parchin for sending me the above link.

Can the message of the world’s vanished religions ever be understood? The urge to do so is irresistible when the art that they inspired dazzles us. “The Doors of Heaven,” and the important volume edited by the exhibition curator, Marc Etienne, purport to explain the “World Perceptions in Ancient Egypt,” as the subtitle puts it.

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But reconstructing theological concepts through the partly preserved texts of a dead language is not an easy task. And, more importantly, finding the secret of the illumination that we surmise here and there in the art of a faith that died out around the late third century A.D. seems beyond our reach.

Yet, the investigation is gripping. Never mind the disappointing artistic selection, and the arid prose bristling with weird-sounding names and technical details required by the nature of the undertaking. More disturbing are its limitations, which the scholarly tone of the discourse cannot conceal.

Deities central to the faith turn out, on closer inspection, to be deeply enigmatic.

See the above page for the full story.

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