U.S. O.T.O. Grand Lodge
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Book Reviews
Review by Dionysos Thriambos

Moses the Egyptian:
The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism

By Jan Assman

Harvard University Pr
October 1998
Paperback, 288 pgs
Assman is an Egyptologist by profession, but this book is a more general work of "mnemohistory," in which he sets forth a history of the development of the "Mosaic distinction." It is an example of the best and most responsible sort of historical deconstruction, with the aim of sleuthing out "religious antagonism and its overcoming." It provides a serious, detailed treatment about the historical figure of Moses as it has been alternately opposed to and aligned with evolving appreciation for ancient Egyptian religion.

After some intellectual background, the first set of chapters begin by treating classical literary sources, and then work through an historical sequence beginning with English Hebraist John Spencer (1630-1693), and progressing through Renaissance Hermetists, Enlightenment freethinkers (at which point expressly Masonic contributions to the topic start to appear), Spinozists, Friedrich Schiller, and 19th Century "cosmotheism," to Freud's Moses and Monotheism.

That survey concluded, Assmann returns to ancient Egypt and shares some of the latest contemporary research on the Amarna religion (or anti-religion) of Akhenaten, long espoused as the possible point of origin for Western monotheism. That chapter should be of value to anyone interested in mysticism or esoteric traditions, as it treats an ancient approach to the divine as Light.