The mirror of humanity


The history of art is a precious record of civilisation's evolution, also mirrored by works inspired by religious themes throughout the ages. The history of mankind, of his loves and fears, tragedies and accomplishments. It's a constant, visual reminder of the wake of civilisation, and it starts by revealing the unique source of faith. For all religions can only originate from one source.

The creator of 'Heaven and Earth and all creatures great and small' is unique. He or 'even' she can have several names, but there can only be one creator. All existing religions would acknowledge this.

The culture of Ancient Egypt is exceptional because it spans across approximately 3000 years and was subject to dogma and discipline thus endless, repetitive stylisation. Yet this civilisation was considerably advanced in relation to its period. As the priority of the Pharaohs seems to have been to defy the rigours of time, this was the determining factor. Yet in a relatively modest way the artists of Ancient Egypt were free to express themselves with small creations, of items such as jewellery and works of sculpture that reflect their creators' discernment, sensitivity, faculty of observation, and their love and respect for nature. Items of furniture were also beautifully made and such fine carpentry and miniature works of art remind us of similar, fine examples created many centuries later in Japan and China. Thanks to the Ancient Egyptian obsession regarding conservation, these small artifacts that perhaps would have been dismissed as relatively trivial, have also been well preserved.

The enormous pyramids, sphinxes and stylised monuments of Pharaohs are of course very impressive, as are also the pyramids of the Incas. Naturally we are aware of the incredible labour involved and can imagine the thankless toil of the many slaves forced to work to satisfy the requirements of their masters. But it would be difficult to consider them as inspired, artistic accomplishments.

When one creates a monument, for whatever reason, the results only merit the respect and admiration that they evoke or are aesthetically worthy of.

Surely the greatest creator of all would be angry and insulted to see an important result of his own creation- mankind, engaged in war in His name!

Two Prophets, one who claims to be the son of God, the other, the messenger of God. The first preaches love and tolerance, whilst gently and respectfully turning the page on the Old Testament. The second advocates reverting to the fundamental discipline similar to that of the Old Testament, and negates the validity of all other alternatives. The much older Hebrew religion refers more directly to the Creator. For the Jews, any consequential conflict between the two Prophets would thus be avoided.

The Muslims reason that as their Prophet was the last messenger claiming to convey the word of God, he must be the only legitimate one to follow. Would this then mean that if Jesus came after Mohammed, the Muslims would all have become Christians? Is religion thus determined by chronology? The order of appearances?
If a third Prophet had followed Mohammed, claiming to be the reincarnation of Abraham, the father of the three monotheist religions, couldn't this then have solved the problem and finally established peace for posterity between Muslims, Jews and Christians?

One of the longest reigning Empires was Byzantine. After Egypt had become a province of the Roman Empire (30 BC) it was gradually Christianised by the Copts, and this despite Roman persecution and genocidal massacres that took place during the third century. 'Coptic' in fact means 'Ancient Egypt' and the last stage of the Egyptian language. The Copts regard themselves as direct descendants of the Ancient Egyptians. Islam was imposed 400 years later when the Arabs invaded and took over Egypt. Yet by the 11th Century half of the population of Egypt was Christian Orthodox and many Coptic monasteries still remain in various parts of Egypt. Through the centuries the Coptic, cultural centre was Alexandria.

Yet again, despite history, certain Muslims seem to be persuaded that the Egyptians whose ancestors lived there many centuries before the Arabs ever arrived, have no right to be there at all, and have even less right to practice their more ancient religion!

History always leaves its traces, some more beautiful than others. Those who negate history, negate their own roots, their identity, their culture and thus their religion.

The Tree of civilisation has many branches, each one aspiring to reach the sky its own way. And the branches reflect the root system of the tree, the essential source. The harmony of its branches determine the tree's stability, its longevity and its beauty.

Text © Mirino (PW). Examples of ancient Coptic art, with thanks to Wikipedia. 
January, 2011

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