Egypt's Legacy: The Archetypes of Western Civilisation, 3000 to 30 B.C

Egypt's Legacy: The Archetypes of Western Civilisation, 3000 to 30 B.C

Egypt's Legacy: The Archetypes of Western Civilisation, 3000 to 30 B.C

Egypt's Legacy: The Archetypes of Western Civilisation, 3000 to 30 B.C


Drawing on Jungian psychology to show why Egypt has been so important in the history of Western civilisation, Michael Rice explains the majesty and enduring appeal of Egyptian civilization.Jung claimed that there exist certain psychological drives dormant in our shared unconscious: these are the archetypes. From the omnipotent god to the idea of the nation state, the formulation of most of these archetypes is owed to ancient Egypt.Michael Rice sets out to recover the sense of wonder that the Egyptians themselves felt as they contemplated the world in which they lived, and the way they expressed that wonder in the religion, art and literature. He traces the story of Egyptian civilization from its emergence in the third millennium BC to its transformation following the Macedonian conquest in 30 BC.


The temples of Egypt were the repositories of various explanations for the origins of the Egyptian state. Different generations of gods and of divine and semi-divine kings were represented as the primeval rulers of the land, to be succeeded ultimately by the divine Horus reincarnated, generation after generation, in the living king.

To the Egyptians of the early periods this was the central fact of their existence. In mythological time Horus had been declared the ruler of all Egypt after an epic battle which took place in the celestial dimension. The king was Horus' incarnate successor and Egypt was the successor of the celestial region over which his sovereignty had been confirmed.

This essential fact made the necessity for any formalised religion, in any sense that the word would be understood today, superfluous. If an earthly people is ruled directly by an immanent divinity there is no requirement for revelation, for the god's will is manifest, no moral precepts enshrined in any form other than the daily evidence of the divine will, no gods or other supernatural beings who need to be persuaded and cajoled, other than to be acknowledged as the supporters of the living god.

In Egypt, the rituals and ceremonies involving the powers which existed outside the realm of nature were manifest as state, hence corporate, occasions. The great ceremonies in the temples were acts of psychic expression on a national scale. They bonded the land of Egypt, in the person of the king, with those psychic forces which the creation of the state had released. They were immense theatrical events whose audience was Egypt's self, designed both to release and to augment the nation's psychic energies. In later times, as the power of the priests grew, the ceremonies became more congregational, so that the political and material power of the temple could be made manifest.

The ceremonies in the temples focused the psychic energies contained in the people's unconscious, liberated by the releasing of the archetypes. The Egyptians were thus the first people to recognise and exploit the energy contained in large concourses of people in a state of heightened and directed excitement. Such events have become the common currency of most religions and many political gatherings. An occasion nearer our own time which brilliantly encapsulates both the religious and the political dimension of this phenomenon and which reveals the almost palpable presence of psychic energy in such a situation is recorded in Leni Riefenstahl's

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.