African Foundations of World Religions. (Religion)

Article excerpt

We conclude, with Part 3, Femi Biko's series on how world religions were based on, or borrowed heavily from, African religious systems and repackaged the source they had borrowed from. The last instalment in our May issue ended with the influence of Akhenaten on both Jewish and Christian traditions. Please read on...

Akhenaten's intervention marked a turning point by which attitudes towards the religious process (mass rituals) vigorously challenged the spiritual process, the process of inner enlightenment. It also marked a major turning point in the direction of temporal affairs, dissolving the idea that religious and scientific dogmas are mutually exclusive.

Whether viewed as an "heretic" or a "reformer", Akhenaton was undoubtedly a "precursor of modern ideas". The complex legacy of the Aten religion rejects our modern distinctions between the rational and the spiritual, and in fact served as a precursor of the theory of grand unification. As Professor Hornung contends:

"In Amarna religion, for the first rime in history an attempt was made to explain the entire natural and human world on the basis of a simple principle. Like Einstein, Akhenaton made light the absolute reference point, and it is astonishing how clearly and consistently he pursued this concept in the 14th century BCE (Before the Christ Era), making him in fact the first modern human being." (Akhenaton And The Religion of Light, 1999).

In theological terms, Islam today is perhaps, in many respects, the nearest to the uncompromising monotheism of the religion of Aten. Akhenaton's conception of the singular manifestation of God had spread rapidly to Near Eastern regions, especially to Egyptian colonies of the New Kingdom such as Byblos, Palestine and Arabia.

Through its colonial policies, Ancient Egyptian cultural and religious influence was to dominate much of the Near East and Mediterranean and this influence was later reflected in both Christian and Muslim formulations in the subsequent years.

Just as Judaism and Christianity had previously borrowed from Ancient Egyptian sources, Islamic sources in turn derived several of its doctrines from the anterior traditions.

Ancient Egyptian hatred of the pig was legendary in the Old World and remained so until the Late Period as Herodotus reported in the 5th century BC.

In Islam, the pig also became Haram (forbidden). Judaic and Moslem scholars have certainly not failed to recognise the connection between the three faiths (see Maurice Bucaille's The Bible, Quran and Science, 1976).

Similarly, Herodotus, who had observed the Ancient Egyptians to be "the most scrupulous in religious observation amongst all people", was certain that "Ethiopian and the Egyptians were the only races from ancient times to have practised circumcision".

Following his research into the genesis of the practice, Herodotus would affirm that Semitic groups such as "the Phoenicians and Syrians of Palestine themselves admit that they adopted the practice from [Ancient] Egypt" (see Herodotus' Histories p2:104).

From the Cape to the Sahara and from the Atlantic coast across to the Horn, the initiation practice of circumcision was universal amongst settled and nomadic paleo-African cultures. Its diffusion to the Near East was probably due to Semitic diffusion.

The Hebrew adoption of circumcision practices from Pharaonic Egypt was subsequently explained as a sign of the favoured status of the Israelite nation in a covenant with God (see Genesis 17: 8-14).

Be that as it may, the link between religious narratives and the male phallic finds its most elaborate expression in the Ancient Egyptian Tekhen (Obelisk) legends pertaining to Min, Amen and their chief deity Osiris. (Note: All references to Egypt or Egyptian in this article means Ancient Egypt).

For the Egyptians, the obelisks were monuments symbolic of supreme procreativity, as they were identified with the earth in union with the sky, in Egyptian terms Geb's phallus in perpetual intimacy with Nut's womb. …